Helen Goulston

Research summary

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For Helen’s AHRC-funded doctoral project, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, she is researching the interior decorative scheme of the Museum's Gothic Revival building. The interior includes portrait statues and busts, decorative stonework and ironwork, as well as murals and bespoke furnishings.

Through analysis of these objects and research in the Museum’s archives, Helen wishes to examine the function and effect of these decorative objects in a museum dedicated to scientific education. She is particularly interested in how the concept of 'diversity in unity' can be applied to the decorative scheme and how this concept also appears in Victorian theology and science. Helen is looking forward to this being an interdisciplinary project, assessing the art and design of the Museum in relation to institutional history, history of collections, museology and the development of different scientific disciplines.


Helen recently completed an MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors at the University of Buckingham, achieving a distinction and receiving the prize for the best performance by a postgraduate art history student. The course allowed her to develop her knowledge of decorative arts from the late 17th century through to the 19th century, while placing them in their architectural and historical contexts. Her MA culminated in a dissertation on the historic decorative arts display at The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857. Before this, Helen was an auctioneer and valuer for ten years; this provided her with invaluable hands-on experience of decorative arts across a wide range of eras and mediums. During this time she also qualified as a gemmologist, achieving FGA status.